If you are filing a lawsuit against a Texas employer who did not subscribe to workers’ compensation, you should expect the employer to defend the company’s interests. While companies can fight against the charges an employee levels against them, they are limited to a handful of defense arguments in a non-subscriber case. One of these is the “pre-existing injury” defense, which claims that the employee’s injury occurred or was made worse by something that happened earlier in the employee’s life.
When Can an Employer Use the Pre-Existing Injury Defense?
The costs of emergency care and ongoing medical treatment make up a large portion of the damages in Texas non-subscriber work injury lawsuits. If the injury has left the victim permanently incapacitated, the employer can also be on the hook for disability and loss of future income payments. As they have relatively few defenses available to them, the employer’s legal team can claim the pre-existing injury defense in any case, and can even make the claim when they have little to no evidence of a prior injury.
The goal of this defense is to attack the victim’s:
- Right to fair compensation. If the employer can convince the jury that the employee’s injury existed before the accident, the employer can escape liability for all costs associated with the injury. Evidence of this can range from you calling in sick after an accident at home to a coworker’s knowledge of your past injuries.
- Monetary award. Even if an employer expects to lose the case, the company may be able to reduce the award by suggesting that a pre-existing injury contributed to your overall suffering. This is technically not allowed, as Texas employs the “thin skull” rule in injury cases, which states that a company must take the employee in the state that it finds him. Simply put, a person cannot receive lower compensation because he or she is more prone to an injury than others. Unfortunately, the suggestion of a pre-existing condition does have the potential to influence the jury when it comes time to assign a dollar value to the case.
- Credibility. If the defense finds out that you injured the same part of your body years earlier and you failed to inform your employer, the employer can attack your credibility. By omitting the truth about your injury, the court may presume that you were trying to get compensation under false pretenses, and your case is likely to fall apart. Even if you did suffer an injury years earlier, it is always best to inform your attorney to allow him or her to prepare for the day it is addressed in front of the judge.
Does a Pre-Existing Injury Automatically Disqualify Me From Compensation?
A previous injury does not bar an employee from seeking compensation. However, these cases must be handled delicately in order for the victim to have the best chance of success in court. It is best to work under the assumption that the defense knows everything you do and won’t hesitate to use anything that could discredit you. First, you must give your attorney all information necessary about the prior injury, including dates, prognoses, and medical records. This will allow your attorney to prepare a rebuttal to any claim about your condition that the defense might make.
One of the ways these claims may be rebutted is by questioning the impact and relevance of the prior injury. If you suffered a broken wrist in a car accident years earlier and are looking for compensation for carpal tunnel syndrome, your attorney should be able to provide x-rays, medical evidence, and doctor’s testimony about the likely bearing of the old injury onto the new one. These cases typically involve qualified experts, including medical practitioners and accident reconstructionists, who can take the jury point-by-point through the effects of both prior and current injuries.
Whether your employer has a valid reason to make this defense or not, you will need an experienced non-subscriber injury attorney to guide you through your case. To find out how much your claim could be worth, contact the Packard Law Firm today to speak with an attorney in your free, confidential, and no-obligation consultation.